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cockswain's avatar

Is it unsafe if my microwave oven knocks out my wireless internet connection?

Asked by cockswain (15254points) May 25th, 2011

When I run my microwave, if my laptop is in the kitchen it loses the internet connection. I’m not certain if it does it when the laptop is closer to the router than the microwave since I haven’t paid that close attention and don’t use the microwave too often. Anyways, I assume some electromagnetic radiation must be leaking out and is hosing the wireless field. Is this leak reasonable for microwaves? Should I have any concern about the energy levels?

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23 Answers

lawkes's avatar

Yes, it’s unsafe.

Generally, old microwaves have poor shielding. If your microwave happens to be fairly new, then the shielding of the microwave is defective. Older models and defective one’s emit a very “dirty” signal over the entire 2.4 GHz band which causes weak signals, or in your case, knocks out the signal completely.

trickface's avatar

This is interesting, I didn’t know the diluted waves of a microwave could throw off a wireless connection. GA for the education!

skfinkel's avatar

Anything involving electric wires that get overheated or unexpectedly turn things off scare me. It’s probably just my ignorance, but I do not trust these things when they act up.

JLeslie's avatar

Thank you for asking this question.

Bagardbilla's avatar

I’d worry more about what your microwave is doing to your food…
I’m just saying…

JLeslie's avatar

@Bagardbilla Do you mean all microwaves, or just this particular microwave?

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

They make a tester you can buy to test the microwave leakage.

Thammuz's avatar

Buy a Geiger counter (Or rent/borrow one if there is such an option) and check for yourself, they’re not all that expensive…

Bagardbilla's avatar

@JLeslie, most in general. I’ve heard everything from how they breakdown minerals to outright killing plants watered with microwaved water.
But in particular this one… Because the aggitation on a molicular level (which is supossed to occur only on the inside of the microwave chamber), is affecting things on the outside… we’re assuming here ofcourse that it’s not the electromegnatic part of the microwave which is interfering with your wireless device.

cockswain's avatar

@Thammuz Don’t geiger counters measure alpha, beta and gamma radiation? Do electromagnetic microwaves fall under that same category?

Does anyone else know anything about what sort of physical harm could be caused by these microwaves? I suppose if they had enough energy they could mutate DNA, but I don’t know the physics well enough to know if they have the energy to do that.

JLeslie's avatar

@cockswain Supposedly the microwave was invented because a man working in some plant would stand next to some machine and the candy bar in his pocket would melt. He realized the microwaves were cooking the food. I wonder how much cancer the people working in that plant develope? If that story is true.

lawkes's avatar

@cockswain,

I don’t know how it works where you live, but here in New York, you can request a visit from the electric company (Con Edison) to test the emf levels of your entire home and external environment free of charge. They have a specific department that deals with emf. So they will check your tv, microwave, everything and you’ll know if it’s above the standard level of safety.

Most of these radiation testers are nonsense. They’re very inaccurate. A real one is what the staff members of the electric company use, which costs thousands of dollars.

Thammuz's avatar

@cockswain Now that i think about it, I really can’t vouch for the accuracy of this. My father is a geologist and once told me you could measure the radiation of an unshielded microwave with a geiger counter.

That’s pretty much all my sources amount to in this particular case, then again i never had a microwave oven until last month.

cockswain's avatar

Looks like I’ve got a little more research to do.

JLeslie's avatar

I was thinking about getting a geiger counter to test my counter top. If it works on the microwave a bonus. I wonder how much they cost?

cockswain's avatar

After a bit of reading, I don’t think the microwave radiation is dangerous. I didn’t read about the nutritional argument, just the biological one. Basically there is ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing is the bad stuff that has sufficient energy to alter your DNA. Microwaves are non-ionizing radiation, which don’t have sufficient energy to harm you, at least by way of altering your DNA. The valid warnings are that this energy can excite your atoms to move more quickly, heating them. If you get warm while standing really close to a microwave, you have a leaking microwave.

So this seems like a common sense thing. If the microwave is also making you hot as well as the food, you should move away and repair or replace your microwave (personally I opt for repair, I hate filling landfills).

I have another question, if anyone has a clue. Since microwaves and wireless internet have the same frequency (~2.4 GHz), does the amplitude of the waveform for a microwave have a far greater amplitude than that of a router (or cell phone, etc…)? I was just thinking about what characterizes the strength of the emf. I’m picturing a 600W microwave at 2.4 GHz would have less amplitude than a 1000W microwave. Is this correct?

blueiiznh's avatar

I am uncertain that it is a measure of leakage versus an electrical disturbance.
A couple things to try:
Check to see if your wireless router is on the same circuit as the microwave. Its wireless, so move it to another circuit if possible.
Wrap a hot dog in a paper towel and put it on top of your microwave. If it cooks while outside the micro, get a new one :)

cockswain's avatar

I don’t think they are on the same circuit, but why do you think that would be the issue? I think the router probably runs on around 24V DC or something like that. The microwave would have to have enough draw to somehow reduce the voltage available to power the router. Maybe it’s possible, but I don’t know exactly what you have in mind. I’m not an electrical engineer.

I like the hot dog idea. If we still had a cat, I’d put him on top of it.

blueiiznh's avatar

I am an electrical engineer and it is possible. Just a suggestion for logical steps.

cockswain's avatar

Can you explain how that could happen? I know a little about electronics.

cockswain's avatar

Oh, by the way, do you have any experience working on analog circuits? I designed one at work but don’t know enough to be certain I’m selecting all the correct specs on the components. I’m on the verge of hiring a consultant for an hour or two to help me figure it out. PM me if you’re interested.

blueiiznh's avatar

Most househld appliances like radios, routers, tv, that run on AC, still have a power supply to create DC voltages whether internal or external.
I microwave in general will backfeed some amount of noise into the circuit and create EMF noise. It is this that can create issues with devices that run on a broadcast frequency.
Send me a pm of your other reference circuit designs.

cockswain's avatar

Interesting. I’ll send it to you when I get back to work Tuesday, that’s where I have a file on which I drew it. For a little background, I asked this question about it a few months ago. It is a low priority, but something I’d like to knock off my plate at work.

I’ve got the valves and leak detector selected now, but want to ensure I get the right relays and some other misc. questions.

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